This following viral video (h/t @elliotng) really captures what I'm talking about. The video is of a hotel in Changsha, the provincial capital of Hunan Province, being built in two days (literally):
This is an eye-opening video. It fits in nicely with a popular meme in the US right now: that the US is a "nation of wusses" and that China is "kicking our butts."
Last night, I hung out with Qian, my brother, and my roommate from college at our apartment. We watched the Sunday night NFL game of the week on a Tuesday night. The game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between the Eagles and Vikings had been pushed from Sunday night to Tuesday night because of snow.
Pennsylvania's governor, Ed Rendell, had a lot to say about the NFL delaying a football game because of bad weather:
"My biggest beef is that this is part of what's happened in this country," Rendell said in an interview on 97.5 radio in Philly. "I think we've become wussies. ... We've become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butt in everything. If this was in China do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down."This is a rather bombastic statement from Rendell. My old roommate from college, who lives in DC, commented that Rendell is notorious in political circles for bloviating and loves to hear the sound of his own voice.
I don't think Rendell's words are all that accurate.
Chinese people often get very worked up about weather. From my experiences of living in the middle of the US and the middle of China, Americans are not wusses when it comes to weather and braving the elements. While I get what Rendell was going for, he's off base.
First, domestic sports leagues are just not that popular and don't hold the same value in Chinese society as they do in the US. There is no comparison in China for something like an NFL night game in Philadelphia. And second, Chinese people would not pay boat loads of money to voluntarily sit in mind-numbingly hostile conditions to watch sports. I don't see any city in China packing 60,000+ people into a stadium to watch a sporting event in a blizzard.
All that said, the rapid development in China and the US' economic sluggishness scares a lot of Americans. The video above is a beautiful portrait of what the US is envious of China for. We pride ourselves on being hardworking and industrious. Seeing a different country beat us at our own game (and Communist China of all places) stirs up great emotion. I sense nostalgia for the way things were in the US post-WWII both in the media and in daily interaction with family and friends. I think Rendell is grasping for those "good old days" when the US was the economic engine of the world in his comments from the other day.
Things have changed. I don't see those heady industrialist days ever coming back to the US. That's a difficult pill for many Americans to swallow. But even if those days are gone forever, I don't think the US is done for as a country or an economic powerhouse. Although frustratingly sluggish, the US economy continues to churn. We went close to the brink, but did not collapse. We, as a nation, need to adjust our priorities, expectations, and, most importantly, education system. Wusses we are not, though.